Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Previously Gunsite Gossip
Vol. 7, No. 5           April, 1999


I suppose I should begin this issue by wringing my hands over the disaster at Littleton, Colorado. Certainly that was a dreadful episode, but I can see no relevant connection between the murderous rampage of a couple of psychopathic adolescents and the activities of the National Rifle Association. If anyone on campus had had the presence of mind and the ability, he might have stopped that atrocity before it got started: at the very least, he could have limited it to one or two casualties. But as we know, no weapons are allowed on campus, so the place is ostentatiously defenseless. I once saw a door-poster which announced, "There are no guns in this house. Feel free." Thus it is with schools. We do not announce these things, but the creeps know that a school is easy pickens. That is probably an important factor in the recent epidemic of school shootings.

We note with some alarm that a certain number of lots of Lake City 1962 7.62 Match ammunition are showing signs of primer decay. If you have a good supply of that material, I suggest you shoot it up now on the range, but do not count on it for serious work.

Herewith our nomination for the headline of the year, which appeared recently in the Arizona Republic:


We continue to wonder about the appearance of the Steyr Scout in the hands of the KLA. It is said that a lot of KLA support is coming from Muslim drug trading in Albania, but even if this is so, I would think that it would be more business-like to buy six or seven Kalashnikovs in place of one SS. Of course, the SS is probably a better weapon for mountain guerrillas than the Kalashnikov, but one wonders who was in a position to make that decision.

The second shot is a great help, perhaps even a necessity, in pistolcraft, but I wonder how much we need it in a hunting arm. On dangerous game I guess it can be useful, but rapid fire is a military exercise. If you are attempting to repel hoards of screaming Zulus, an M1 or an M14 might be very comforting. But we have not needed to do much of that since flintlock time. (And flintlocks did the job beautifully at Blood River.)

The second shot is certainly available more quickly with a self-loader, and also with a straight-pull like the Blaser 93, but in my experience, for what it is worth, there is always time to work the bolt on a turn-bolt rifle in the time it takes to recover from recoil. My partners reported that when I had occasion to take a second shot on a buffalo I thought I had killed up in the Tamafuta country, the two shots from Baby sounded like they came from a self-loader.

I have seen Gerhardt Blenk (the "High Blenk of Blaser") reload his break-top single-shot so quickly that greater action speed would seem superfluous. The lever-gun is a tad quicker than a bolt, too, but the question that raises itself is how much of a speed increment is significant. In Formula I pit stops, speed is absolutely critical, but in a hunting rifle the speed of that second shot is almost never significant.

A correspondent recently informed us that an ideal target for pistol plinkers is the stale cookie. There are plenty of them, they positively reward hits, and they feed the beasties. In all these years of plinking I somehow never thought of that before.

On the recent anniversary of the epic battle of Midway, the television people gave the memorial a certain amount of attention. These people seem to be more occupied with tragedy than with heroism, evidently not realizing that the two usually go hand-in-hand. The legendary attack of Torpedo Squadron 8 against the Japanese carrier force sacrificed the entire squadron, but it was not futile. When the Nip combat air patrol came down from aloft to destroy the torpedo planes, Wade McClusky's dive bombers acquired a free hand and hit the carrier force while the latter was recovering and rearming aircraft. In a space of about five minutes the Japanese lost the war in the Pacific - or the US Navy won it, depending on your viewpoint. When we memorialize Midway, we should honor Torpedo 8 as more gallant perhaps than the Light Brigade at Balaclava, and certainly more effective than the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. In the words of George Patton, "We should not be sad that such men died. We should be glad that such men lived."

I was recently interviewed on a Wisconsin radio talk show regarding the uproar caused by the shooting of domestic dogs by police. This came from my Commentary about the unwisdom of a policeman's using his firearm on a dog. No matter how justified his act may be in a legal sense, it always gives him and his department a very bad press. A properly qualified policeman should be able to take on any one dog without recourse to gunfire. If a dog is wearing a collar when he attacks, he is good as dead, and even if he is not wearing a collar, almost any sort of blunt or edged instrument will serve to stop him - in the hands of a qualified police officer.

"He ricochets from one scandal to another, endlessly self-absorbed and generally despised."
(No, no! We mean George IV, about whom this line was written quite some time ago.)

I note with some puzzlement that the 376 Steyr cartridge is now announced for sale, even though I do not know any place where there are samples of it. Also the "Dragoon" rifle, which is a scout configuration in the larger cartridge, is listed in the brochure for about two hundred dollars more - why I cannot say. The two weapons are structurally identical, and while there may be a few ounces more steel in the Dragoon than in the Scout, I cannot see that makes up to two hundred dollars difference. Marketing is an extremely esoteric activity.

"For the man who has everything" we now suggest a titanium gold-coated Desert Eagle from IMI. Clearly there is a lot of money out there somewhere.

On the subject of money, we note that the whimpers we hear about the price of the Scout do not seem to discourage multiple purchases. We now have several correspondents who proudly operate "his-and-hers" Scouts, apparently for married couples who do not shoot together.

About the only place we know of where a large magazine capacity is useful to a hunter is in Australia, where the pigs are a dreadful nuisance and legitimately taken in large numbers. We recently read a magazine account of a hunt which gathered up no less than 43 pigs in one day.

If you don't understand weapons you don't understand fighting. If you don't understand fighting you don't understand war. If you don't understand war you don't understand history. And if you don't understand history you might as well live with your head in a sack.

We recently read of a sportsman who dismissed the 375 Holland cartridge because the first time he tried it the telescope delivered a painful case of Kaibab eye. He did not like the cartridge because the telescope was mounted too far aft. Almost the first thing we used to do to a customer's rifle back in Orange Gunsite days was to slide that telescope forward as far as it would go. With a scoutscope, of course, this problem is avoided entirely. I find it hard to believe the amount of technical misinformation floating around among shooters. Even without instruction, a little thought would help this problem. But thinking is a difficult thing to encourage in a society occupied with television.

And now we learn of a customer who is attempting to sue the fabricator of his kukri on the grounds that he cut himself on it. Poor baby! I suggest we pay him off with a packet of band aids and a can of chicken soup.

Colleague Ed Head, who works the border patrol down between California and Mexico, comments on how convenient his SS is for border patrol work, especially including the leopard-light attachment. There is not much need for that leopard-light in hunting, but for night searching in hazardous areas it has great merit. We were going to demonstrate that at the NRA meeting at Denver, but under the circumstances you will now have to find one of your own.

We learn that the Smithsonian Institution has now rejected the donation of a prized argali trophy by a renowned American hunter on the grounds that some varieties of argali are considered to be endangered, by some people. The Smithsonian wildlife exhibition stands in dire need of improvement, and under these circumstances we can understand why.

Do not go to Africa until you are ready! We have a correspondent who is now heading for the Golden Joys and who has never hunted so much as a squirrel. Even if he does everything right, he still will not have worked himself up to the proper frame of mind for the Great Experience. If you are contemplating Africa, I strongly suggest you check out Texas first. Go down there and get some experience on "exotics" so that when the time comes you will not be overcome with the blind staggers, as so many novices are.

The marines are reported to observe modern small-arm technique, but according to the cover of the June 1999 issue of Soldier of Fortune, the army has not got the word. Nobody ever taught that soldier about Rule III.

Just now back from Whittington, we can report that the place is pretty thick with game. The residential area was aslosh with mule deer. We were told that the hills are full of elk, and the management has acquired no less than seven cougars between Christmas and Easter.

It is customary for republican governments to be bound by constitutions, and this is grand idea. The question does arise, however, about what recourse the citizen has when the government disregards its own constitution, as is the case with our own Tenth Amendment. What do you do if your government does not obey its own laws? Our Declaration declaims that when governments do not observe the God-given rights of man, it is not only the right but the duty of the people to alter or abolish them. The Declaration of Independence may not be the supreme law of the land - which is the Constitution - but it frames our philosophy of government and serves as a guide for those who respect our traditions. More people should.

Sheriff Gary Enders from Bighorn County, Wyoming, comments: "Actually we consider attempted carjacking as an attempted suicide here, since so many drivers are packing legally."

The New American

You have read about this bird up in New England somewhere who is terribly afraid of rattlesnakes and has fenced off his property. Now the authorities have required him to remove his fence on the grounds that it may cause psychological distress to the rattlesnakes. The silliness index continues to rise like the tide.

On October 1, 2 and 3, Dave Wheeler is putting on his hunting rifle competition at San Jon, New Mexico. If you are a free on that date, you might check it out. (Contact Dave Wheeler at Blue Steel Ranch, 505-576-9629.)

As Cousin Bongo continues to wander around the vast Pacific, he runs across more evidence of the general aspect of the war in the Pacific. For example, recently on the Gilbert Islands, the remains were discovered of 22 whites - probably British - who were simply shot out-of-hand when the Nips took the place. There was no fighting, this was just murder, but that is the way that war was. The "post modern" generation does not seem to understand that.

From what we read, our European friends are dismayed at Captain Ashby's acquittal, but not at Clinton's. (Ashby, you may recall, was the A-6 pilot who cut down the cable car.)

The following case study was given to us by a senior rangemaster of wide experience and complete theoretical background. It is delightful to contemplate a circumstance in which the right man was there at the right time. We do not read of such situations often because they are simply not newsworthy. There is nothing to wring our hands about.

The episode perfectly exemplifies the Principles of Personal Defense, as set forth in our professional publications.
"On Halloween eve, two years ago, I was walking my dog on the street where I live. At the time, there were only five families on this street. At the west end of the street was the rear of a condo, with a driveway going through to the avenue.

"At about 8pm, while near this driveway, I heard a vehicle accelerating west onto my treet. It was a Japanese compact, lowered, and though a cold night, the windows were lowered. ORANGE. As the vehicle approached me, I observed that the four occupants, all male blacks (there is nothing pejorative here, just a statement of fact), were all wearing ski masks. The occupant in the right rear seat (facing me) had his mask raised above his eyes. He looked at me and stated, "Him, him, right here." RED. At the same time he reached down nto the vehicle for something with his right hand, and the vehicle stopped, approximately ten feet from me. I sidestepped to put a parked car between us, and drew my GSP. I placed the front sight just above the nose of this bozo, and removed the slack from the trigger. He responded by stopping the movement of his hand, something that surely saved his life, ducking, and screaming "gogogogo." The driver did exactly that, moving rapidly up the driveway, and entering the avenue without stopping. He hit the opposite curb, blowing the two front tires. The vehicle drove off, the occupants relatively intact.

"My experience as a police officer in Anti Crime units, where we were tasked with interrupting violent crimes in progress, and as an Investigator in Central Robbery Division, where we did stakeouts, led me to believe that at least one of the occupants had a gun. I also believed that their purpose was robbery. I saw no weapon, and therefore did not shoot.

"The media would have had a field day with this if I had fired. After all, this was Halloween, and were not these poor children merely in costume as trick or treaters? Was I a racist? After all, I was white and they were black. Did I overreact by 'taking the law into my own hands?'

"I believe I acted correctly. I was alert, decisive, aggressive, acted with speed and surprise. Perhaps more importantly, I acted with coolness. If they decided to continue, there is no doubt that I would have been precise.

"This would not have been my first gunfight. I was certainly alarmed, but not frightened. I felt in control, and confident in my ability to defeat the threat.

"After the incident, I considered calling 911, but did not. What could I offer? A license plate number? I saw only the front sight, THIS BIG. A description of the occupants? Eyes, very wide. What had they actually done? Probably more importantly, at least to me, was what they had not done. Perhaps they did nothing else criminal that night, or perhaps they did. I will never know. But I'm sure that before they decide to approach another old, broken-down, potential victim, they may remember what the muzzle of my 45 looked like as it was pointed at their heads."

The French have now commissioned their brand new aircraft carrier. Its flight deck is some 15 feet too short, and its cruising speed is some 5 knots below specification, but it has the most comfortable crew quarters in the world. (The wine list, I understand, is outstanding.)

I do not suppose any of the faithful missed the news, but a Texas district court has just now ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, not a collective right. Hooray for the judge! This matter has always seemed perfectly clear, but there are those who will keep on arguing about it, apparently forever.

The African National Congress (ANC) has become increasingly annoyed with parliamentary opposition and is now moving for a one-party state. Figures! This is definitely Third World chic.

A correspondent writes to tell us that he has been down in Antarctica recently and has discovered there is no need for personal weapons at that place. We answered that there is no need for personal weapons on the moon either. Other places, yes.

"Even before the 'trial,' 34 Senate Democrats declared that they would not find Clinton guilty. In doing so, they firmly (and proudly) joined the moral ranks of the O.J. Simpson jury."

from Chronicles magazine, May 1999

Daughter Lindy has just acquired a Baby Glock in caliber 40 in anticipation of the forthcoming hot season in Phoenix. I am not impressed with it, but it may indeed serve the purpose of being armed. As we all know, the first rule of a gunfight is "have a gun." The Baby Glock is indeed handy, and it is indeed a gun.

"In general, tradition is a better guide to conduct than improvisation."

The Guru

In the dismal aftermath of the Littleton bloodshed the irrelevance factor in public outcry expands beyond our comprehension. "Something must be done!" is the wail of the media. Yes indeed, but like what? We have plenty of laws. The murderous trolls at Columbine High School broke a whole catalog of laws, starting with the one against murder. Nonetheless, the wimps demand still more legislation - without even suggesting what such legislation might accomplish. ("We know it won't do anything, but it will make us feel better. We don't think. We feel.")

Juvenile depravity is the new thing. We didn't have it (in any quantity) in our youth. Depravity comes from the undisciplined home. It does not come from a proper home - one with two responsible parents, family meals, moral leadership, and very limited television. I can't say that I know how to reestablish this, but I do know that a mass of new rules attacking instruments rather than acts is not the answer.

Please Note. These "Commentaries" are for personal use only. Not for publication.